Report: Some Rockets Wondered If Dwight Howard 'Whiffed' on Screens for James Harden

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVMay 5, 2021

HOUSTON, TX - JANUARY 10: Dwight Howard #12 and James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets are seen against the Indiana Pacers on January 10, 2016 at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images)
Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images

Some members of the Houston Rockets organization reportedly wondered whether Dwight Howard was "intentionally whiffing" on picks set for James Harden as their relationship "deteriorated" during the 2015-16 NBA season.

ESPN's Zach Lowe reported Wednesday the tension between Howard and Harden led the superstar guard to ask the coaching staff to come off the bench so he could play more minutes with Clint Capela, though sources told Lowe it was a "facetious" request aimed at getting Capela on the first unit full time.

Capela, who was a 21-year-old second-year player at the time, said he tried to play the role of peacemaker between the Rockets' big names while also working on his own development.

"I could kind of get them together," he told Lowe. "We were able to speak and laugh together. When I was around both of them, there were no issues with us talking."

None of the players are still in the Houston organization.

Howard left immediately after that 2015-16 season to join the Atlanta Hawks. He's currently a member of the Philadelphia 76ers.

"It wasn't as good as it needed to be for us to succeed," the eight-time All-Star center told ESPN in July 2016 about his relationship with Harden.

The Rockets traded Capela to the Hawks in February 2020.

Harden was the last one to leave, joining Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving with the Brooklyn Nets as part of a January blockbuster deal.

"I know what the truth is, it's no beef. We never got into a heated argument," Harden told ESPN's Calvin Watkins about Howard in November 2016. "It just didn't work out."

The departure of talent from the Rockets, which included the December trade of Russell Westbrook to the Washington Wizards, has led the franchise down a rebuilding path.

Houston owns the worst record in the NBA at 16-49 with seven games left on its 2020-21 schedule.